Pledging on Friday to oversee an activist government that will touch the lives of everyday New Yorkers, Mayor Bill de Blasio linked his administration’s work in fighting inequality to the accomplishments of a trio of liberal titans from the city’s past: Al Smith, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Fiorello LaGuardia.
De Blasio compared the city’s current economic plight to some of its more dire crises of the past century, believing it calls for a sweeping liberal agenda.
“Against that backdrop, we come into office with the notion that our forbearers are exemplars,” de Blasio said in a major speech. “They did things boldly, did things audaciously, they did things quickly, because there was no other choice. They didn’t wait.”
The mayor rarely shrinks from the chance to place his young administration in the same framework as the city’s most revered political figures. In a speech earlier this month, he invoked Robert F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln while standing near the spot where Lincoln delivered a famed 1860 speech that previewed his presidency.
On Friday, de Blasio stood within the city’s Ivy League school, Columbia University, at the behest of one of his predecessors, David Dinkins, and reverentially remembered the Democrats. He praised Smith, a 1920s-era governor, for his work in reforming dangerous workplace conditions; Roosevelt for the New Deal; and LaGuardia, the three-term mayor, for creating the city’s public housing authority amid the Great Depression.
“I marvel at the creativity of those who came before us,” the mayor said, “and I aspire to reach some of their level and hope I can follow their footsteps.”
Again invoking his predecessors, he previewed his next initiative, to be unveiled this week: to create or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing.
“It is the outer limit and that’s what we have to reach for and we will get there,” he said.